The Federal Trade Commission obtained a settlement from a group of telemarketers who allegedly sent out over 300 million deceptive text messages and sent consumers to deceptive websites.
The defendants were Cresta Pillsbury, Jan-Paul Diaz, Joshua Brewer and Daniel Stanitski, and their company Ecommerce Merchants, LLC, which did business as Superior Affiliate Management. They were part of a series of complaints the FTC filed in March against the senders of text message spam.
The defendants allegedly sent spam texts to consumers all around the country, promising free iPhones, iPads and $1,000 gift cards. A typical message read, “FREE MSG: You Have Been Chosen To Test & Keep The New iPad For Free Only Today!! Go To [scam website] And Enter 2244 And Your Zipcode To Claim It Now!”
Instead of receiving those prizes, consumers who clicked the links were sent to websites that requested personal information and required them to sign up for numerous other offers, often including purchases or paid subscriptions.
The stipulated final order permanently bans Pillsbury, Diaz, Brewer and Stanitski from any involvement with sending unauthorized or unsolicited text messages. They are also prohibited from deceptively presenting an offer as “free,” or misleading consumers about use of personal information collected in the process of such an offer or the steps they must go through to redeem the offer.
The defendants are prohibited from operating an affiliate network for deceptive purposes, and required to inform members of any future affiliate network about the terms of the order. They are required to monitor the affiliates to prevent deceptive or unfair activities.
The FTC order includes a $356,950 judgement, which is suspended due to their inability to pay. The defendants must cooperate with the FTC in any future investigations.
The court entered a default judgment against the defendants’ company, Ecommerce Merchants, LLC.
This was the third settlement in a recent series of FTC cases against operators of massive text spam operations. Previous settlements have been entered with Henry Nolan Kelly and Rentbro, Inc.